POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 19, 2011
The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, which brought the first Catholic missionaries to Hawaii in 1827, formally merged its Hawaii chapter with a mainland contingent this week to expand its resources and invigorate its ministries.
The Rev. Johnathan Hurrell, an assistant pastor of St. Michael's Church in Waialua, was elected Wednesday as head of the consolidated chapter. The reorganization and election were part of a weeklong conference at St. Anthony Retreat Center in Kalihi Valley, presided over by the Rev. Javier Alvarez-Ossorio, the Rome-based superior general of the global organization's governing body.
"My big push will be vocations (recruiting priests). That will be an absolute priority — to bring new life into the community," Hurrell said.
Consolidating the two chapters into the new United States Province "is an exciting time," Hurrell said. "We will have more resources to pool from. We can discover our potential, which will increase with the merger. I hope to animate the brothers and make them feel encouraged and challenged."
Hurrell, 46, said he was elected probably because "they were looking for youth, a vigor for change and for energy to move ahead with positive changes. I hope to have the courage to embrace the changes the community is looking for."
The Hawaii Province had consisted of 15 priests and six brothers who staff four Oahu parishes: St. Augustine-by-the-Sea in Waikiki, St. Patrick Church in Kaimuki, St. Ann Church in Kaneohe and St. Michael Church in Waialua; and the two Molokai parishes, St. Damien Church in Kaunakakai and St. FrancisChurch in Kalaupapa, according to a Sacred Hearts news release.
The former U.S. East Province included 31 priests and three brothers at seven parishes in Massachusetts, Texas, Mexico and Washington, D.C., and a mission in India.
The merger had been under consideration for 20 years as the Sacred Hearts Congregation, like other Catholic organizations, faces a dwindling corps of priests and brothers due to retirement, and because few young men are choosing to take vows of celibacy, obedience and poverty to enter priesthood, the news release said. Sisters of the Sacred Hearts, who are organized separately, are not party to the merger.
Alvarez-Ossorio said the consolidation of provinces in general ends duplication of some functions and facilities. It will also allow smaller chapters to expand their resources to take advantage of strengths the other province might have, and thus increase the creativity and broadening of outreaches to new communities. Mergers have worked well with the Mozambique and Congo provinces, and the Japan and Philippine provinces, which have different languages and cultures, Alvarez-Ossorio added.
Hurrell, a native of New Zealand, said being chosen was "a big of a shock for me," as senior ministers are usually selected for the top job. He has been an assistant pastor at St. Michael's the past few years, and worked at various parishes on Oahu in the 16 years he's lived in Hawaii, he said. He was ordained by Catholic Diocese of Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva six years ago.
Hurrell will lead a management team of four councilors, including the Revs. Herman Gomes, pastor of St. Ann's Church in Kaneohe; Chris Santangelo and Stan Kolasa from Massachusetts; and Bob Charlton of Texas, who was elected vicar provincial.
The Sacred Hearts Center in Kaneohe will be the residence of the new provincial, and the administrative offices of the U.S. Province will be in Fairhaven, Mass. Hawaii and Massachusetts maintain retirement homes for members.
The Rev. Christopher Keahi, who headed the Hawaii Province, said Hawaii has played a key role in the history of Sacred Hearts.
"We were the first mission of the order after it was founded in France. We are the land that produced its great Saint Damien of Molokai," he said in the release. A parish priest will continue to be provided at Kalaupapa, which has been staffed by the Sacred Hearts since Father Damien de Veuster served leprosy patients for 16 years until his death from the disease in 1889, the release said. Damien was canonized by the Catholic Church in 2009.
"It is the memory and witness and spirit of Damien that inspires the whole world and directs us to take care of the poor people, suffering people everywhere," Alvarez-Ossorio said. "It is up to us to live out his spirit as we are in service in our own time, to the forgotten."